Review: EconTEAching Session 4: Economics student group videos- assessment and beyond, by Dr Stefania Paredes Fuentes (University of Warwick)

The fourth session of the #EconTEAching chats organised by CTaLE and the Department of Economics at Warwick University took place on 27th May 2020. Dimitra Petropolou (LSE) and Silvia Dal Bianco (UCL) talked to us about video projects as assessment methods. They both shared their experiences in using videos and group work. The session live-stream can be found on the CTaLE YouTube channel.

From this session we learned that one of the strengths of video assessments is how it helps students to develop transferable skills such as communication which will only become more important under current circumstances. There were many questions regarding assessment set-up (size of groups, size of class etc) followed by some very good ideas by colleagues who have adopted similar assessments. Of course, we also touched on how this would work on an online-learning scenario.

Developing communication and other transferable skills

One of the clear benefits of adopting this type of assessment is that it helps students to develop communication skills. Students have a limited timeframe (e.g. 3 minutes, although some opted for longer videos of 10 minutes) to deliver their message. This means students need to carefully choose what information to include which also requires a good level of familiarity with the economics content. The practice to select relevant information and think about the best way to convey it, may also help students to prepare for competitive job interviews. Many of these interviews have now a video component (skype/zoom) and are time-constrained, so clarity of the message will be a clear advantage.

Economists have been under scrutiny for making the discipline appear inaccessible to the general public, e.g. by using too much jargon. These videos can help students to think about creative ways to communicate Economics matters in an accessible way, fostering creativity. In fact, this has been more broadly adopted as a way to increase young people interest in Economics. See for example the Royal Economic Society UG Video Competition and The CORE Econ challenge

The Basics on Setting Up the Assessment

If you are new to this type of assessments, the first thing you may want to know is how to start. For inspiration, you can have a look at Dimitra et al.’s presentation at the Development in Economics Education Conference in 2019.

Like for any assessment, clarity is very important. Students should know what to expect and be confident with the marking criteria. You need to set up how the video production and economic content are going to be assessed.

Remember to mention who the audience for the video is (general public, other students, lecturers, potential employers, etc). Varying how we communicate depending on the audience is a valuable skill to have and it is very important for many roles in the job market, so we may use this assessment to raise awareness on this. You can see an example of instructions for a video assessment for a 1st year Macroeconomics module at Warwick here.       

This assessment is a group work and therefore subject to the same concerns attached to any group work. For instance, what is the ideal group size? It seems most of the adopters have worked with group sizes of 4-6 students and these seemed to work well. How to make sure that all members contribute? There were various views on this. Some ask students to keep a diary with the group progress and periodic meetings. These diaries can then be used for marking/peer-assessment. Others prefer students to self-regulate and decide themselves how to organise their time and see this as part of their training (e.g. learning time-management skills).

Other aspects to consider with group work is how to mark the work. Again, not unanimous views here. Some prefer to give one mark per group (i.e. all members of the group get the same mark), others prefer to divide the mark based on self and peer-reported efforts. One of the concerns with the latter is that self/peer reported efforts may favour of competitive behaviour within the group that may negatively impact the collaborative aspect of working in a team. All this said, adopters of both marking methods reported they received very few complaints about the marks.  

Another aspect relevant to marking is the use of peer marking. This type of assessment lends itself very well for peer-assessment/marking activities. Not only students will benefit of the experience or marking and assessing other people’s work, but as bonus, this can help to mitigate the marking burden in large classes. However, it is very important to set up clear marking criteria and instructions for the peer-marking process. Virtual learning environments sometimes have peer-assessment features, and some participants recommended Teammates.

Colleagues with experience using video assessments have found that students don’t seem to need much technical support. One colleague participating at the chat commented:

“I introduced videos this year and many students told me that they did not have much experience about making videos. However, they told me: “Do not worry, we will figure it out”. And they did!”

Despite this, there are few basic rules you may want to consider and communicate to students. Based on my own experience, you may want to pre-empt some common students’ questions, by providing information on: accepted video formats (mp4, mov), how to upload the video in the virtual learning environment (if this differs from more conventional essays), whether their physical presence in the video is required and whether they all need to talk in the video. If you plan to make the videos more broadly available, students need to consider this when thinking of the video structure. For instance, if they are interviewing other people, they need to ask for consent to publish the video on different channels (e.g. YouTube).

Finally, video assessments seem to be widely adopted in year 1. However, we can’t think of reasons why not to use video assessments in later years. In Economics, we have been very traditional with assessment methods, but the current scenario has made many of us reconsider the assessment opportunities available (as we talked in our Session 1), and videos are a good alternative for all years.   

Moving online?

Of course, it is very likely that many of us move to online teaching at least in the first part of the next academic year. How would this affect the viability of video assessments?

Video assessments can be easily adapted to an online world. The main adaptation is to provide instructions on how to work online. Something that you need to be aware and make students aware is time-zones. Due to the current travel restrictions, students may be located in many parts of the world, which adds a layer of complexity when setting meetings. You can try to organise groups by time-zones to minimise these issues or set up good practice (e.g. flexibility in meeting times, working asynchronous, etc). 

Guidance on collaborative working-technology can help too. In many cases, students are already very familiar on how to work collaboratively online but setting ground rules is important. You can advise on some basic tools for online work (shared documents, video-call software available in your institutions, video editors, etc), what is available through university (e.g. licenses to Zoom, Teams, etc) that they may or may not use. Linking this to the previous point on students’ locations, you need to make them aware of the potential issues with firewalls that make difficult to access certain websites. Think of Google in China, but there are many other countries with firewalls that may affect access to certain websites such as Egypt, Turkey, etc.  

Academic support has to be designed both synchronous (e.g. live online meetings, live chats) and asynchronous (e.g. Q&A forum) but this doesn’t apply just to video assessments, but it is good practice in general, and it will arguably remain good practice even when we can return to face-to-face teaching and learning.

Finally, some commented on the possibility to make the videos interactive. This seems an excellent addition to the video assessment (but also to our own teaching!) and worth investigating. For instance, allows to add interactive feature to videos and it is already integrated in most VLEs. Panopto also allows to include MCQs.

Thanks to Dimitra, Silvia and Cloda for such an inspiring chat, and to all the participants who kept the discussion lively and contributed valuable advice.

Video Assessment resources:

  • Arsenis, P.; Flores, M. and Petropoulou, D. “Assessment and skill diversification in economics: A first-year undergraduate experience  of a group video project” Developments in Economics Education (DEE) conference 2019 presentation.
  • Dal Bianco, S. (2020) “Modifying teaching and learning approaches to enhance student engagement and empowerment”, in Mawani, S. ed. Student Empowerment in Higher Education, Berlin: Logos Verlag, in press.
  • Dal Bianco, S. (2020) “Modifying teaching and learning approaches to enhance student engagement and empowerment” in Student Empowerment in Higher Education, Mawani, S. and Mukadam A.A. eds, Berlin: Logos Verlag, Vol.2: 413-421.
  • Dal Bianco, S. (2020): Tips on video making for assessment
  • The UCL First Year Challenge
  • Chaudhury, P., and C. Spielmann. “Let’s Make a Movie-Introducing Economics with a Multimedia Research Project.” Journal of Economics Teaching 1.1 (2016): 16-41.
  • LSE case study on the Economics First Year Challenge
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education: How to keep teaching during Coronavirus
  • UCL RES 2018 Video Competition winning video
  • LSE RES Video Competition winning video
  • University of Surrey pilot video submitted to the RES video competition.

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